Saturday 8th November 2008. In the first interval of the game between Sheffield Steelers and Manchester Phoenix at Sheffield Arena, Cat’s Whiskers editor Jono stepped into the Whitehouse to interview Sheffield Steelers announcer and controversial hockey icon David Simms for the first time in over five years. Love him or hate him, you just can’t ignore him. Here’s what he had to say on a variety of topics that Jono put to him.
[Jono] So then Dave, do you still hate us? [David] Oh every bit as much as before, yes. I think you’ve got to if you’re a fully fledged Steeler. If we open the law book of the Sheffield Steelers up it says before we win we must ensure that Nottingham don’t! We all got a bit nervous about four or five weeks ago when Nottingham got off to a great start, but then in true Nottingham fashion you screwed the whole thing up and we’re all a bit more relieved now! We don’t know whether we’ll win it but we’re pretty sure you won’t! [Jono] But we get used to it after so long! [David] Well you’ve had a lot of practice!
[Jono] Is there anyone in the Panthers organisation that you admire or like? [David] Oh yeah lots of people. I’m good mates with Danny Meyers, Matt Myers, the Myers sisters! David Clarke, all the guys who’ve been away with GB. Get on great with them, there’s good banter between some of the Steelers lot and some of the Panthers lot and you know what I get on well with Tess, I got on well with him during the time he was here. Obviously he had some problems downstairs in the room, but speak as you find with me, he was a good lad.
[Jono] A question from the last interview that should have a different answer. Which defeat of the Steelers by the Panthers has hurt you the most? [David] There’s two that stick in, the one where you knocked us out of the play-offs before you went on to win. I think the one that really hurt was the Challenge Cup win, Kim Ahlroos’s deflected shot (laughs), which was the only game that Christian Bronsard lost. What was hard was losing the game, but what was really hard was being sat here, then I had to turn into professional David and I think I did a pretty good job. You know what, that’s what I would have expected in Nottingham, by the way I wouldn’t have got that in Nottingham because the organisation in Nottingham isn’t as classy as the organisation in Sheffield, off the ice. You know what, that hurt. I walked past the Nottingham dressing room and I had Clarkey and Paul Moran and guys like that taking the piss out of me, you know what, you give it you’ve got to be able to take it. [Jono] Absolutely, yeah. [David] And that’s the big difference between Sheffield and Nottingham. A lot of the Nottingham people who give it, and I’m talking about management and people in the Panthers organisation, great givers but not good takers. They’d make bad homosexuals the Panthers management, they’re good givers but bad takers! [Jono] I think it’s different for the fans, I find Panthers fans can give it and take it, I think the Sheffield fans are pretty poor at taking it back, very good at giving it. [David] Oh very good yeah, we’re all one eyed in that department eh!
[Jono] Who if anyone from the current Panthers side would you like to see playing for Steelers? [David] As a person Rumun Ndur is one of my top five people. Bostin bloke, leader, dressing room guy, makes sure that you’ve got a chance. I don’t think he’s one of the top five or ten defencemen in the league, but when he’s in your room you’re going to have a good room and it’s going to be kept together. I do like Bruce Richardson, bit of a Finnerty so they kind of nullify each other. After that, much of a muchness. [Jono] Dan? [David] I’m quite happy with Tess. If Tess walked back into Sheffield tomorrow he’d have no problems with me, I liked him. You see there’s too many plumbers in our league and sometimes you need a locksmith and Dan Tessier is one of the few locksmiths.
[Jono] You said recently that you’d like to see an eight team Elite League, why? [David] Because every game would be an event. You’d play four home, four away, which means if you take it from your perspective Sheffield come four times, Coventry come four times, Cardiff come four times, Manchester come four times, these are all big games. If you can actually get an answer out of Gary Moran when you ask him a question, ask him how he tries to sell a game against Hull, Edinburgh or Basingstoke? It’s a hard sell, you can’t do it, you’re struggling. No disrespect to those guys, if you’re a Hull, Edinburgh or Basingstoke fan reading this you’re going to think ‘What a twat he is!’ and I’d think the same if I was them, but the reality is if we’re going to sell this game and make it an event every night, then it’s got to be an eight team league. Say Hull were the eighth team, they’ve then got Sheffield going in four times, Nottingham going in there four times, Coventry going in there four times, it’s an event, it’s a much better night. Let’s be honest, would you want to be in Hull tonight watching them versus Edinburgh? No, that’s why you’re a Nottingham fan and your here and not watching them. [Jono] And because my girlfriend is a Steelers fan [David] Well, that always helps! [Jono] So which two teams would you cut? [David] Any two of those three, Hull, Edinburgh or Basingstoke. I couldn’t give a toss which two of the three. Look this isn’t Sheffield Steelers speaking, this is me personally. I think we need a strong eight team league. I think we need lots of things as well, but I think it would work.
[Jono] Voth & Kozak. You saw the incident in Nottingham while commentating for Sky, do you really think the Voth deserved a longer ban than what Kozak did for the respective offences? [David] Two completely different things. I think Kozak was a tad unlucky because I think if he hadn’t have cut Marc Levers I think he’d have just got a couple of minutes in the penalty box because he’s just got sent to the penalty box, then when the blood was there the referee changed his mind and gave him the higher penalty. I thought Voth was very lucky to end up with nine games, I think in any other league in the world he’s have got fifteen or twenty games.
[Jono] Do you think that the Sky coverage is raising the profile of the sport? [David] I think it is, and I’ll tell you why I think that. I live in Birmingham where there is no Elite League team, I go into people’s houses as an estate agent, I speak to people, they see hockey on the television I think it does raise the profile. Would we like it on at a better time, yes. Would we like it on more often, of course. Would we like bigger games shown, yes of course. However two years ago we had nothing, so it’s a start and where getting there. When you see how quickly that show is put together by Televideo, who do it for next to nothing, who rely on lots of volunteers and different people to try and get that show out, I think the show that comes out is very good.
[Jono] It has to be said that getting people into this building is becoming a bit of a struggle compared to years ago, what needs to be done to get more people through the door, not just here but the league as a whole? [David] I think all teams this year have concentrated more on bums on seats than they have before, but I think it has to be relentless, it can’t be the day before a game it has to be weeks in advance of a game, and I think all of us don’t spend enough on marketing. I think we’re all obsessed with putting the best team on the ice, the best players, trying to get that American league guy who’s going to cost an extra £200 a week. The product on the ice is vitally important, but you know what, this is a 30 date promotion business, it’s not an ice hockey business and not enough is put into it by all teams, yours and mine included. Yours does the best job of getting bums on seats, if you walk round Nottingham you see posters up, you see window displays, you’ve got the radio deal there, leaflets going out at football games, look you’ve doubled your fan base in the last seven years, good job. [Jono] What about Rotherham? What’s the latest there? [David] It’s a piece of grass at the moment, but I understand in January someone gets a shovel out and the first sod of soil gets lifted. It’s Mike & Bob that are dealing with that more than myself, but I am told that credit crunch or no credit crunch £250 million is in the bank and it’s going ahead.
[Jono] Do you think that your past success sometimes goes against you in that the fans expect to see trophies and a winning team all the time, but in the past few years you haven’t had as much success? [David] I think sometimes fans have short memories, but it’s a nice pressure, I’d rather have that pressure having won and wanting to win again than never having won. I’d much rather be a team where winning is expected, if this club didn’t expect to win I wouldn’t be a part of it. I expect to win trophies and I’m disappointed when we don’t, second, third, fourth place isn’t good enough for us and we’re always striving to be first. What we try and do, and what we did in the past when Mike Blaisdell was here as coach, is you put in a support mechanism that gives the coach every ounce of support, and David Matsos can say lots of things about the Sheffield Steelers but he can’t say he hasn’t had 100% support from everybody in our organisation for three years. I think that’s where your club has been let down, you have in-fighting, you have people who want the coach, don’t want the coach, like your selections, don’t like your selections and I think Mike Ellis suffered from that. You won nothing for 127 years then you win two trophies and fire the coach who won you the cup!
[Jono] It can’t be argued that the profile of Team GB has increased tenfold since yourself, Andy Buxton and Paul Thompson took over the running, what more needs to be done? [David] The ten Elite clubs don’t need to put any more money into GB, it’s not about money, it’s about time and preparation and if Paul Thompson was allowed that GB team together once a month for a day, then we’d bring a medal back from the World Championships I guarantee you. For the Olympic tournament we had one practice session before we went away, and the clubs might all say they support the programme but when push comes to shove they don’t.
[Jono] Paul Thompson said on Steelers hockey that if he had the funding that Athletics and Cycling have he’d take us to the Olympics and take us into Pool A. Do you agree with him? [David] 100%. I’m lucky enough that I’ve been around for the last two World Championships, Paul Thompson and Andy Buxton run a marvellous ship and those lads are committed to the GB programme 100%. Yes I do I fully agree with him, I think Paul has done a marvellous job there.
[Jono] There are several Internet hockey forums these days, are they a help or hindrance? [David] Complete waste of time. Most people who go on them have got an average age of six and a mental age of three, a hindrance. They should be a help, they are there to publicise and promote, but people on there who have absolutely no knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes but try and make out that they do, people who hide behind user names and passwords, they’re not entitled to a view in my opinion. [Jono] One of your comments I’ve seen on THF is that there are talkers and doers. What is your definition of each? [David] A talker is someone who will sit in the stands and think he knows better, then when his club asks something of him he thinks because he pays his £15 it gives him a right to moan 24/7. There are people out there doing a proper job then work 24/7 trying to promote the sport, making the best of what we have, which isn’t a lot to start off with. Then there are people out there who are just trying to knock all the time, those sort of people don’t deserve the platform of those forums.
[Jono] Which other players & coaches do you admire throughout the league? [David] Well obviously I admire Paul [Thompson] because he’s my best mate and I’ve seen him come up from coaching 14 year olds in Solihull to coaching the national team. I think he is the best coach in the country by a country mile, no disrespect to Dave Matsos, Mike Blaisdell, who I loved to bits, or any of the other coaches around at the moment, but I think Paul is at a different level to all of them. I think he develops players, he’s tactically aware, he’s a motivator, I like him. David Matsos has been fascinating to watch, first year made loads of mistakes, second year just his work in progress. We’ve invested a lot of time, effort and money in Matty and we’re confident that he’ll bring us success. We’re thrilled with him and we think he’ll go on to win us championships. [Jono] So do you think continuity is important? [David]Absolutely, the coach is the most important person in your hockey club without a shadow of a doubt.
[Jono] One final question, what does the future hold for David Simms within the Steelers organisation? [David] Hopefully many more years, the estate agency is going downhill fast at the moment, so I might need a full time job! I might be coming and running the Panthers, how about that? [Jono] I’d take you over some others, believe me! [David] I’d like to see you print that!
The Cat’s Whiskers would like to thank David for his time. Some may not like what he says but what he does give is his blindingly honest opinion and he totally stands by it. British hockey really could do with a few more with a similar attitude